Exciting conclusion at the Vail Lacrosse Shootout | VailDaily.com

Exciting conclusion at the Vail Lacrosse Shootout

Colorado high school saves leader Nate Siekierski named MVP

A Big Green Herd attackman fires off a long-range shot toward ScoreBreak goalie Nate Siekierski, a Colorado athlete who now plays for the University at Albany in New York.
Clark Bell | Vail Lacrosse Shootout

The Vail Lacrosse Shootout reached an exciting conclusion on Sunday, and not just because lightning threatened to cancel the event.

In the men’s elite division, which represents the highest level of play at the tournament, the five-time champions of yesteryear were not present, making it anyone’s trophy.

The Vail Lacrosse Shootout is now 47 years old, making it the longest-running annual lacrosse tournament in the United States. It has played a key role in developing the sport in the United States, bringing marquee athletes from the lacrosse hotbeds of the East Coast to the western frontier — where new talent would be mined for years to come. In its heyday, all the best lacrosse players in the country had been to Vail at one point in their careers, as it represented a key stop on the roadmap to the upper echelons of the sport.

These days, there’s a lot more lacrosse action to choose from, thanks in part to the success of the Vail event. But the action is still intense in Vail, with some of the best collegiate-level athletes in the nation comprising the elite divisions. Over the last five years, however, an absolutely dominating Lacrossewear squad has created a bit of a redundancy issue in the men’s elite division.

Colorado keeper

This year, however, Lacrossewear did not visit the Vail tournament. The result was a final showdown between two regular guests at the shootout, Big Green Herd and ScoreBreak. For local fans in attendance, ScoreBreak’s goalie is a familiar name in Colorado; Nate Siekierski became the state’s all-time saves leader during his four years on varsity at Legend High School in Parker.

Siekierski now plays Division I lacrosse for the University at Albany in New York, where he received his first start earlier this year.

“He’s definitely proven himself,” coach Scott Marr told the Daily Gazette in February.

Siekierski proved himself again on Sunday, making several key saves to hold the Big Green Herd to five points. The game started as a defensive standoff in Ford Park; the first goal didn’t come until two minutes into the second quarter, when a Big Green Herd attackman snuck one past Siekierski. But ScoreBreak went on to put 10 points on the board before it was over, and Siekierski was named all tournament team MVP, while ScoreBreak coach Tom Keller was named MVP coach.

Vail Lacrosse Shootout founder Jim Soran was especially happy for Keller.

“I think he’s been coming here for 13 years, and that’s his first championship,” Soran said of Keller. “It made for a good tournament.”

The women’s elite division championship was a similar story, with the Jammin’ Salmonettes winning their first championship after many years of attending the tournament. Salmonette goalie Jenna Hoffman was impressive as ever, notching nine saves, while women’s all-tournament team MVP Kirstie Greenlaw scored five points and contributed one assist.

No time for halftime

Over the course of the tournament, more than 2,000 lacrosse players visited Vail, with teenage and 60-plus divisions playing.

The geographical convenience of the tournament was showcased on Wednesday in the U-19 division championship, Soran said.

“You had Laxachusetts playing against the Adrenaline Tropics, so it’s a Massachusetts area group playing against a Southern California group,” Soran said.

Soran said while weather was mostly favorable throughout the nine-day tournament, on the final day the rain started coming down hard during the second period of the men’s elite game.

“They shortened halftime so they could keep things going,” Soran said. “We came real close to a lightning delay, the trainers are the ones who make that call, and they were real close to it, and then it turned and moved.”

By the end of the match, the sun had come out again.

“It was an exciting last day, for sure,” Soran said.

For more photos and recap, or to learn about the Vail Lacrosse Shootout, visit vaillacrosse.com.